Definition of antonyms
1) The development and change of the semantic structure of English words is always a source of qualitative and quantitative development of the vocabulary. Polysemy is inherent in the very nature of words and notions, as they always contain a generalization of several traits of the object. Some of these traits are common with other objects. Hence the possibility of identical names for objects possessing common features.
One and the same word may have several meanings. A word that has more than one meaning is called polysemantic.
Polysemy is characteristic of most words in many languages however different they may be. But it is more characteristic of the English vocabulary as compared with Russian, due to the monosyllabic character of English and the predominance of root words. The greater the relative frequency of the word, the greater the number of elements that constitute its semantic structure, i.e. the more polysemantic it is.
Polysemy does not interfere with the communicative function of the language because in every particular case the situation and the context, i.e. the environment of the word, cancel all the unnecessary meanings and make speech unambiguous. We shall deal in detail with various types of semantic change. The development and change of the semantic structure of a word is always a source of qualitative and quantitative development of the vocabulary. In diachronic (or historical) linguistics, semantic change is a change in one of the meanings of a word Every word has a variety of senses and connotations which can be added, removed, or altered over time, often to the extent that cognates (cognates in linguistics are words that have a common origin. They may occur within a language, such as shirt and skirt as two English words descended from the Proto-Indo-European word *sker-, meaning "to cut". They may also occur across languages, e.g. night and German Nacht as descendants of Proto-Indo-European *nokt-, "night". The word cognate derives from Latin cognatus, from co (with) +gnatus, natus, past participle of nasci "to be born". Literally it means "related by blood, having a common ancestor, or related by an analogous nature, character, or function") across space and time have very different meanings. Semantic change is one of three major processes to find a designation for a concept. The study of semantic change can be seen as part of etymology, onomasiology, semasiology and semantics. An example of a recent semantic change is of the word mouse; with the advent of computer technology, the word for the rodent has been used as a referent for the input device.
All the types of semantic change depend on some comparison between the earlier (whether extinct or still in use) and the new meaning of the given word. M. Breal was the first to emphasize the fact that in passing from general usage into some special sphere of communication a word as a rule undergoes some sort of specialization of its meaning. When the meaning is specialized, the word can name fewer objects, i.e. have fewer referents. At the same the content of the notion is being enriched, as it includes a greater number of relevant features by which the notion is characterized. Or as St. Ulmann puts it: “The word is now applicable to more things but tells us less about them”.
Classification of semantic change: specification (or narrowing of the meaning), generalization, metaphor, metonymy, hyperbole, litotes, irony, euphemism (See more about metaphor and metonymy in Antrushina Chapter 7).
Hyperbole (from Greek huperballo- “exceed”) is an exaggerated statement not meant to be understood literally but expressing an intensely emotional attitude of the speaker to what he is speaking about. The emotional tone is due to the illogical character in which the direct denotative and the contextual emotional meanings are combined. Example:
When people say: “I’ve told you fifty times”,
They mean to scold and very often do (Byron).
Lytotes – is the reverse figure (from Greek litos – “plain”, “meager”) or understatement. It might be defined as expressing the affirmative by the negation of its contrary: e.g. not bad or not half bad for “good”, not small for “great”, no coward for “brave” and so on. The purpose of understatement is not to deceive but to produce a stronger impression on the hearer.
Irony – this term is taken from rhetoric, i.e. expression of one’ meaning by words of opposite meaning, especially a simulated adoption of the opposite point of view for the purpose of ridicule. One of the meanings of the adjective nice is “bad”, “unsatisfactory”, it is marked of f as ironical and illustrated by the example: You’ve got us into a nice mess! The same may be said about the adjective pretty: A pretty mess you’ve maid of it!
Euphemism (Greek euphemismos from eu “well” and pheme “speak”) is the substitution of words of mild or vague connotations for expressions rough, unpleasant or for some other reasons unmentionable.
Causes of semantic change. They may be grouped under two main headings, linguistic and extra linguistic ones. The first group deals with changes due to the constant interdependence of vocabulary units in language and speech , such as differentiation between synonyms, changes taking place in connection with the ellipsis (when the qualifying words of a frequent phrase may be omitted: sale comes to be used instead of cut-price sale) and with fixed contexts, changes resulting from ambiguity in certain contexts , and some other cases.
The extra linguistic causes are determined by the social nature of the language: they are observed in the changes of meaning resulting from the development of the notion expressed and the thing named and by the appearance of new notions and things. In other words, extra linguistic causes of semantic change are connected with the development of the human mind as it moulds reality to conform to its needs.
2) Homonymy. Many words, especially characterized by a high frequency rating, are not connected with meaning by one-to-one relationship. On the contrary, one symbol as a rule serves to render several different meanings. The phenomenon may be said to be the reverse of synonymy where several symbols correspond to one meaning.
Two or more words, identical in sound and spelling but different in meaning, distribution and (in many cases) origin are called homonyms. The term is derived from Greek (homos – “similar” and onoma – “name”) and thus expresses the sameness of name combined with the difference in meaning.
It is the duty of lexicographers to define the boundaries of each word, i.e. to differentiate homonyms and to unite variants deciding in each case whether the different meaning belong o the same polysemantic word or whether there are grounds to treat them as two or more separate words identical in form.
Careful analyses of the relevant literature (cf. Šipka 1991) evidenced nine central problems in the research of homonymy, as follows: 1. definition of homonymy. 2. homonymy vs. polysemy. 3. lexical homonymy vs. homonymy at other levels. 4. classification of homonymy. 5. causes of homonymy. 6. differentiation of the homonymic lexemes in text. 7. use of homonymy within the lexicon. 8. language reactions to homonymic conflict. In this paper we will restrict our discussion to just one of the above problems - the classification of homonymy.
Homonyms are words which have the same spelling and pronunciation as each other but different meanings and origins. The sources of homonyms: 1) homonymy through convergent sound development, when two or three words of different origin accidentally coincide in sound; 2) homonymy developed form polysemy through divergent sense development. Both may be combined with loss of endings and other morphological processes.
Homophones are words which have the same pronunciation as each other but different spellings and meanings: buy – by, knight –night, steel – steal, write –right and so on.
Homophones, are words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. They are usually spelled differently:
1. The wind blew my blue shirt into the pool.
2. Cheryl rode along as we rowed the boat from the island to the lakeside road.
3. I’ve never seen such a beautiful scene.
4. We want a site for our home that will be out of sight.
5. The seam in the tent doesn’t seem to hold back the rain.
6. Due to the dry weather, we do not see any dew on the grass.
7. I knew they had a new gnu at the zoo.
8. Some people know that you add to find the sum.
9. They’re hanging their coats over there.
10. I ate the eight cakes that were on my plate.
11. How many ways can I tell him that he weighs too much?
Homographs are words which are spelt the same as each other but which have a different pronunciation and meaning (they are different in sound and in meaning but accidentally identical in spelling): bow [bou] – bow [bau], lead [li:d] – lead [led], row [rou] – row [rau], wind [wind] – wind [waind] and many more.
3) Synonyms are different words with identical or at least similar meanings. Words that are synonyms are said to be synonymous, and the state of being a synonym is called synonymy. The word comes from Ancient Greek ("syn") "with" and (”onoma") "name." An example of synonyms is the words car and automobile. Similarly, if we talk about a long time or an extended time, long and extended become synonyms.
Synonyms can be any part of speech (e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs or prepositions) as long as both members of the pair are the same part of speech. More examples of English synonyms are:
baby and infant (noun)
student and pupil (noun)
buy and purchase (verb)
pretty and attractive (adjective)
sick and ill (adjective)
quickly and speedily (adverb)
on and upon (preposition)
freedom and liberty (noun)
dead and deceased (adjective)
In English many synonyms evolved from a mixture of Norman French and English words, often with some words associated with the Saxon countryside ("folk", "freedom") and synonyms with the Norman nobility ("people", "liberty").
Some lexicographers claim that no synonyms have exactly the same meaning (in all contexts or social levels of language) because etymology, orthography, phonic qualities, ambiguous meanings, usage, etc. make them unique. However, many people feel that the synonyms they use are identical in meaning for all practical purposes, and are interchangeable. Different words that are similar in meaning usually differ for a reason: feline is more formal than cat; long and extended are only synonyms in one usage and not in others, such as a long arm and an extended.
There are different kinds of synonyms: contextual or context-dependent synonyms, relative synonyms and total synonyms. Contextual or context-dependent synonyms are similar in meaning only under some specific distributional conditions. It may happen when the difference between the meanings of two words is contextually neutralized. E.g. buy and get would not generally be taken as synonyms, but they are synonyms in the following examples: I’ll go to the shop and buy some bread – I’ll go to the shop and get some bread.
Relative synonyms – are distinguished with respect to different kinds of semantic similarity. E.g. like- love – adore; gift –talent –genius. This attitude is open to discussion. In fact the difference in denotative meaning is unmistakable: the words name different notions, not various degrees of the same notion (according to I. Arnold), and cannot substitute one another.
Total synonymy, i.e. synonymy where the members of a synonymic group can replace each other in any given context, without a slightest alteration in denotative or emotional meaning and connotations, is a rare occurrence. E.g. are found in technical terms and in special literature. Thus, in linguistics the terms noun and substantive, functional affix, flection or inflection are identical in meaning.
Sources of synonymy.Synonymy has its characteristic patterns in each language. Its peculiar feature in English is the contrast between simple native words stylistically neutral, literary words borrowed from French and learned words of Greco-Latin origin: to ask – to question – to interrogate; belly – stomach – abdomen; to gather – to assemble – to collect; to end – to finish – to complete; to rise – to mount – to ascend. Euphemisms – also the source of synonymy: poor – underprivileged; pregnant – in the family way; drunkenness - intoxication
Antonyms are words with opposite or nearly opposite meanings. For example:
dead and alive
near and far
war and peace
increase and decrease
Antonyms, from the Greek “anty"opposite") and onoma ("name") are word pairs that are opposite in meaning such as hot and cold, corpulent and skinny, and up and down. Words may have different antonyms, depending on the meaning. Both long and tall are antonyms of short.
Antonyms may be defined as two or rarely more words of the same language belonging to the same part of speech, identical in style and nearly identical in distribution, associated and used together so that their denotative meanings render contrary or contradictory notions.
Unlike synonyms, antonyms do not differ either in style, emotional colouring or distribution. They are interchangeable at least in some contexts.
Antonyms form binary oppositions, the distinctive feature of which is semantic polarity. Absolute antonyms are words regularly contrasted as homogeneous sentence members connected by copulative, disjunctive or adversative conjunctions, or identically used in parallel constructions, in certain typical configurations (typical contexts): love – hate; late - early. Derivational antonyms: known – unknown. (Classification according to I.Arnold).
Another classification: antonyms are of four types:
Gradable antonyms are two ends of the spectrum (slow and fast) but can have variations.
Complementary antonyms are pairs that express absolute opposites, like mortal and immortal.
Relational antonyms (Converses) are pairs in which one describes a relationship between two objects and the other describes the same relationship when the two objects are reversed, such as parent and child, teacher and student, or buy and sell.
Auto-antonyms are the same words that can mean the opposite of themselves under different contexts or having separate definitions
Though the word antonym was only coined by philologists in the 19th century, such relationships are a fundamental part of a language, in contrast to synonyms which are a result of history and drawing of fine distinctions, or homonyms, which are mostly etymological accidents or coincidences. Languages often have ways of creating antonyms as an easy extension of lexicon. An example is the English prefixes in- and un-. Unreal is the antonym of real and indocile is of docile.
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